1. What specific anxieties and fears have you been experiencing in this time of coronavirus concerns?
In the sports world, courage is essential for success. Pushing yourself harder in training and practices so that you can get better at your sport takes courage. Having the chance to be successful against great competition means you can’t be afraid to fail and that takes courage. Coaches and athletes regularly talk about and tap into courage. But desiring to be courageous doesn’t mean we’re immune to anxiety and fear. The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably stirred widespread anxiety and fear. If we’re honest, we’ve all experienced – and probably continue to experience – anxiety at some level as the coronavirus has spread, threatened increasing numbers of people, and brought not only athletic competition but also so many other parts of our society to a virtual standstill. Will we or someone we love get sick? How will this impact us in the long run? When, if ever, will we get to resume the sport that’s been such a huge part of our lives?
Read Psalm 56 and Acts 18:1-11
In the New Testament, we read about how the Apostle Paul was an incredible missionary, bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to many cities in all kinds of situations. He faced multiple threats, physical beatings, angry mobs, arrests, being thrown into jail – but he kept going. If you’re looking for someone who personifies courage, Paul seems to be a good bet.
Yet consider what happens to Paul while he’s in the city of Corinth, attempting to share the gospel (Acts 18:9-11):
9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! 10 For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to me.” 11 So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God.
In the original language of the New Testament, the Lord Jesus’ directive to Paul, “Don’t be afraid,” literally reads, “Stop being afraid.” Paul was struggling with fear. He was anxious, and there were understandable reasons for this because of the possibility of being attacked. But Jesus encourages Paul to refuse to be controlled by fear. Jesus then gives Paul the “secret sauce” that makes this possible: “for I am with you.”
The antidote to fear is faith: faith in Jesus. When we’re feeling anxious or fearful, the solution is not merely to try harder to be courageous. Rather, we look with faith to Jesus, remembering that he is with us. Jesus makes this promise not only to his original disciples but to all of us who put our trust in him and follow him: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
2. Why does knowing that Jesus is with you enable you to move forward with courageous faith rather than being controlled by anxiety or fear?
Jesus is the Lord of all whose love is unending, whose power is unrivaled, whose wisdom is unlimited, and whose grace is unfailing – and he is with us. Jesus is literally with us by his Spirit whom he sends to dwell in us when we place our faith in him. So as we encounter anxiety and fear because of the COVID-19 pandemic or anything else, we can look with confidence to Jesus. He is present, he knows, he cares, and he will not be thwarted from fulfilling his promises to us and carrying out his plans for us.
Listen to Jesus as he says to us, “Don’t be afraid! For I am with you.”
3. Ask the Lord Jesus to help you hear his voice as he says to you, “Don’t be afraid! For I am with you.” Ask him to show you what it means to live with courageous faith in your specific circumstances.
Psalm 56:4 –
I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?